How Does Joint Dis­ease Affect My Horse’s Ca­reer?

Practical Horseman - - Combating Joint Disease -

Be­cause os­teoarthri­tis widely varies in how quickly it pro­gresses and the level of pain it pro­duces, a pos­i­tive di­ag­no­sis may mark a dif­fer­ent fu­ture, de­pend­ing on the horse. In the case of early-on­set os­teoarthri­tis that is pro­gress­ing slowly, a horse may eas­ily con­tinue his ca­reer sup­ported by ap­pro­pri­ate joint man­age­ment. In more acute cases, a horse may need to re­duce his work­load or com­pete at a lower level. For older horses, tran­si­tion­ing into re­tire­ment may be the best so­lu­tion. Much of it de­pends on what the horse’s job is and his level of use.

“Let them tell you what they can do. If they are happy work­ing and are com­fort­able and sound with some main­te­nance, keep them work­ing. If you can’t keep them com­fort­able and sound, it may be time to think about a dif­fer­ent ca­reer or lesser work­load,” says Pa­trick Loftin, DVM, MS, a sur­geon at Tryon Equine Hos­pi­tal.

“Don’t de­spair. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily the end of your horse’s ca­reer. There are many horses out there do­ing high-level jump­ing, dres­sage and even rac­ing with ugly X-rays. Work with your vet­eri­nar­ian to come up with a plan for your horse to mod­er­ate symp­toms and keep him com­fort­able as well as an ex­er­cise pro­gram. Try to re­duce in­flam­ma­tion and slow the progress of the symp­toms and pro­gres­sion of clin­i­cal signs and lame­ness.”

If you plan on com­pet­ing in rated shows while your horse is on med­i­ca­tion for joint pain, be sure to check the United States Eques­trian Fed­er­a­tion rules to en­sure the drugs your horse is tak­ing are al­lowed. You can email the USEF Drug Hot­line med­e­ques­ or call 800-633-2472.

An os­teoarthri­tis di­ag­no­sis doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean your horse’s show ca­reer is over— proper man­age­ment can help keep him ready for com­pe­ti­tion.

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